THE first Colchester oysters of the season have been lifted.

Dignitaries gathered in Brightlingsea on Friday before setting sail on The Hydrogen, a sailing barge.

The tradition dates back to 1540, and sees the mayor, the town serjeant, and Colchester Council's chief executive, don full regalia to mark the lifting of the first oysters of the season.

It was particularly special for Colchester mayor John Jowers, a retired Mersea fisherman.

Gazette: Mayor - retired Mersea fisherman John JowersMayor - retired Mersea fisherman John Jowers (Image: Seana Hughes)

Following the event, Mr Jowers said: “It was a moment to celebrate and enjoy the start of the time-honoured oyster harvest.

"Once again, we enjoyed the first haul of the season, before toasting His Majesty The King.

“Oysters and the oyster fisheries are a much-loved tradition for Colchester dating back nearly 2,000 years, so I was both honoured and delighted to be part of this year’s ceremony.

“I’ve been fishing these waters since I was a boy, and I know firsthand the importance of the oyster industry to our community.

“The mayoress and I are really looking forward to furthering our celebration of Colchester oysters, in the autumn, when we will host this year’s Oyster Feast at the Talbooth restaurant and raise a glass to our local oysters.”

Colchester Council’s chief executive Pam Donnelly read The Proclamation, an ancient tongue-twister, to declare the fisheries open for the season.

Deputy mayor Lesley Scott-Boutell said she was “really excited” to be given the opportunity to be part of the proceedings.

Gazette: Tradition - deputy mayor and mayoress Lesley and Jessica Scott-BoutellTradition - deputy mayor and mayoress Lesley and Jessica Scott-Boutell (Image: Seana Hughes)

“I think traditions like this are part of our sense of belonging and we’re fortunate to have such a rich history in Colchester,” she said.

Gazette: Fisherman - Tom Haward with his oystersFisherman - Tom Haward with his oysters (Image: Seana Hughes)

Gazette: Band - The Wivenhoe HooliesBand - The Wivenhoe Hoolies (Image: Seana Hughes)

Colchester High Steward Sir Bob Russell was also in attendance and said: “Colchester has lots of traditions, including this.

“We are a historic city as the first capital of Roman Britain so it’s important we ensure we pass these traditions on to those who follow us.”

Colchester Council and Essex County Council leaders David King and Kevin Bentley also took the trip to Pyefleet Creek.

Live music was provided by The Wivenhoe Hoolies as the people set foot on the barge.